Airtel, Telkom & Safaricom Interoperability Has Come A Long Way In The Last Decade

The Telecommunications industry in Kenya has made enormous steps in the last decade putting Kenya on the international grid. The Information, Communication, and Technology space and ability brought forth by innovators in the country have seen millions of Kenyans included both financially and digitally. In fact, it is now quite hard to separate digital from financial and vice-versa.

This has also prompted telecommunication companies in the country to join hands, technologically speaking. A few years ago, Kenyans paid through the nose to make calls from telco to telco making it hard to keep in touch with family and friends from other networks. This would force one to own multiple SIM cards in order to make calls to other networks. Telecommunications watching this from their zones, therefore, launched bundles and packages for calls and SMS across networks, and over the years, calling across networks has been made easier.

As Phone manufacturers also brought to the market interoperable devices allowing one to have multiple SIM cards, each one of them designated to either make calls, send SMS, or for Data use. This made it easier for one to use preferred services from the network of choice.

Mobile wallets merged from Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Airtel’s Airtel Money, and recently Telkom’s T-Kash. Once the wallets were in the people’s hands, it came with its challenges, again sending money across networks was impossible. This would force individuals to withdraw from their various networks, and find preferred network’s mobile money agents, for them to send money. This tedious model would be made hard by the scarcity of Airtel and Telkom mobile money agents across the country. Without choice, most Kenyans were forced to keep their Safaricom lines for the sole reason of mobile money services.

Telecommunications then began their interoperability for mobile wallets at this point and sending money across networks was made possible. This was followed by Merchant Interoperability in April 2022, which allowed Kenyans to make mobile money payments to an M-PESA Buy Goods and Services Till from any network.

Today, Airtel and Telkom customers can make mobile money payments directly into Safaricom’s M-PESA pay bill numbers. This service was launched on 15th July 2022 in an event graced by bosses from all three Telcos. The next phase towards complete merchant interoperability will see Kenyans make mobile money payments from M-PESA to the Till and Pay Bill Numbers of the other networks: Airtel Money and T-kash.

This proposition is also in line with the principles of the National Payments Strategy, 2022 – 2025, which was launched by the Central Bank of Kenya in February this year and seeks to achieve a secure, fast, efficient, and collaborative payments system that supports financial inclusion and innovations that benefit Kenyans.

T-Kash users will first be able to access this addition via USSD *160# and Airtel Money users will access the service through USSD *222# or *334#. “This innovation extends even more convenience to customers and businesses, transforming M-PESA into a one-stop solution to send and receive money and payments from any financial service locally, and our global partners,” said Safaricom’s CEO, Peter Ndegwa.


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